If you are one among the more than 7 million people in the United States suffering from psoriasis, you are probably fully aware of how distressful and unpredictable this disease can be. A type of chronic autoimmune condition, psoriasis affects the skin causing symptoms such as flares of red spots, pustules, or patchy scales. Western modes of treatment mainly include medications that are applied on the problem area or taken by mouth or light therapy; these treatments, however, are not often powerful enough to resolve the symptoms.
It’s quite difficult to treat psoriasis. It affects each person differently and because Western treatments are oftentimes inadequate, sufferers seek out complementary or alternative treatments to help manage their symptoms. Whilst most of these treatments have yet to be scientifically validated, there are some patients who have gotten well using acupuncture, special diets, and/or herbal supplements.
A dermatologist from Loyola University Medical Center at Chicago, Dr. Rebecca Tung, stated that it can be quite a challenge getting a psoriasis flare under control. She added that it’s not uncommon to try a variety of medications to finally find one that will work for you; however, she said, that a psoriasis drug that may work now may eventually become ineffective in the future.
For this reason, a lot of psoriasis sufferers are forced to consider non-conventional types of treatment to keep their condition properly managed. This is where acupuncture comes in.
Acupuncture Treatment for Psoriasis
Clinical studies dealing with the effectiveness of acupuncture as a way to resolve the symptoms of psoriasis have, so far, come up with mixed results. One study of note done in UCLA discovered that acupuncture was able to completely clear the flares in 50% of the subjects who were given treatment. Added to that, acupuncture was able to treat the symptoms of additional ¼ of the participants in the study. One other study done in Sweden, however, had results that showed that people given intramuscular acupuncture fared no better than the subjects who were administered with a placebo. Still, one has to consider that this study was done 15 years ago and its outcomes do not automatically imply that acupuncture is not effective in treating psoriasis.
Some practitioners such as the head acupuncturist at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, Jamie Starkey, Lac, state that the more than 3,500 year old healing practice of acupuncture does not fit well into the model of Western clinical trial studies. The placebo often used in this type of study is “sham acupuncture,” which is the placement of acupuncture needles into random points in the body. This kind of placebo treatment is difficult to carry out and is somewhat controversial. In short, acupuncture treatment, is just not compatible to Western medical scientific methods.
Be that as it may, a lot of patients really do not care since many of those who have tried the treatment state that it has worked very well for their condition. Blog posts and discussion forums about psoriasis are replete with comments from people who claim they experienced substantial benefits from the treatment; some of them even said that they had complete remission of psoriasis with acupuncture. Even some specialists and medical doctors agree that acupuncture can help. Dr. Tung said that psoriasis is the result of a disease affecting the immune system and it can be set off by stress. Acupuncture is an ideal treatment for stress and so there is really no problem incorporating it in a psoriasis treatment since it can help prevent the triggering of the flares by helping alleviate stress.
Miss Starkey noted that rechanneling the circulation of vital energy known as chi in the body is crucial in the acupuncture treatment of psoriasis. Acupuncture needles could be used to encircle a psoriasis flare to help boost chi microcirculation to the area to rebalance the function of the immune system. The Chinese medicine term in which acupuncture needles encircle a psoriasis flare is known as “surrounding the dragon.”
Why One Should Consider Acupuncture
Since Chinese medicine is a holistic (whole-person) type of treatment, it can be a practical treatment for psoriasis, a condition that usually affects the entire body. Other reasons for trying it out are listed below:
1. Studies have revealed that acupuncture is an effective type of treatment for several kinds of autoimmune condition including multiple sclerosis and arthritis. And since psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, acupuncture can be an ideal modality for it as well.
2. If you are currently using other forms of psoriasis treatment, acupuncture can still be added since it does not interfere with any of your existing treatments. Acupuncture treatment does not interact with any of your psoriasis medication unlike herbal supplements and remedies. You can use acupuncture along with other modalities to help relieve stress.
3. Acupuncture is an extremely safe treatment. It has very few risks but very many benefits, as well.
The most important point in using acupuncture is that you need to decide on a treatment that works best for you. More studies are recommended to truly prove its worth as a treatment for psoriasis. However, double-blind controlled studies are difficult to come by, so the next best thing to do is depend on an opinion from an expert or read testimonials from former acupuncture patients.
Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.